Don’t let the fact that you have to stay home stop you from going camping!

Our Japanese-language reporter Saya Togashi was frustrated. Back in February, she went camping for the very first time and had well and truly been bitten by the camping bug (as well as a bunch of real bugs, probably) A recent convert to the world of sleeping outdoors, Saya was keen to try out glamping next.

Sadly, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, more and more camping grounds are turning visitors away, so Saya’s glamping options have been slim to none. It was at that moment that Saya was struck with an idea. What if you could go camping without even leaving your home? While some might argue it technically isn’t really outside, if you can set up camp on your balcony, you’d definitely get a camping vibe. In fact, there’s already a new term in Japanese for camping on your balcony – Veramping. Veramping is a mix of ‘beranda‘, used in Japanese to cover both verandas and balconies, and the word ‘camping’.

Keen to scratch her camping itch, Saya began setting up her veramping area at once. First off, she set up her sleeping arrangements. As luck would have it, she had a reclining garden chair that she bought on a whim from IKEA. “If I buy this, I can chill out on the balcony with a cup of tea, enjoying the sunshine,” she had thought. Unfortunately, the chair was way too big for Saya’s balcony and ended up taking up too much room. Plus, her apartment wasn’t facing the sun, so Saya’s dreams of a stylish balcony never came to fruition. Luckily, her previously useless purchase really came in handy for her camping dreams, as it was the perfect size for a makeshift bed.

With the help of some poles, clothes pegs and some green tarp, Saya constructed a tent like area to sleep in. The roof helped block some of the chilly wind that came at night, and having a tarp roof over her head somehow made Saya feel just a little bit safer.

To add an extra ‘camping’ element, Saya brought out her camping table and chair. Now it really started to look like a real camping ground!

Of course, one crucial element of camping is that you are outdoors; you are far away from the conveniences of being indoors. You can’t just pop in and out of your home whenever you feel like it, or you can’t really call it camping. So Saya decided to impose a rule on herself; no going indoors at all, except to use the bathroom. Everything else – entertainment, cooking, sleeping – would have to be done on the balcony. Any obstacles that she came across, she would have to figure out a way to solve them without going indoors.

Actually, Saya was so well prepared that she’d even brought an outdoor toilet, but as authentic as her camp set-up was, she was still in a residential area with passers-by and neighbours, so the portable toilet would have to be saved for another story.

And just like that, Saya’s 12 Hour Camping Experiment began. First up on any camping agenda is a barbecue. It’s not uncommon to see huge cracking fires with stacks of flaming meat sizzling away at a campsite, but smoke coming from Saya’s balcony would surely be a nuisance to her neighbours. Uh oh! Was Saya going to fall at the first hurdle and pop inside to cook?

Of course not. Saya whipped out her trusty portable cooker and cooked up some spaghetti with pollock roe sauce. Luckily for Saya, there are lots of tasty pre-made pasta sauces available in Japan that don’t require any cooking; you can just mix them into cooked spaghetti and enjoy. Bon appetit!

For dessert, Saya had a kiwi. Nothing special, but she could pretend she’d just plucked it from a nearby tree, like she was really camping in the wilderness or something.

Here was Saya’s first actual challenge; what would she do with the leftover pasta water? She couldn’t just pop inside and pour it in the kitchen sink; that would be breaking the rules. She could pour it down the balcony drain that’s used for draining water from the washing machine, but in doing that she risked inviting some cockroach-y friends to her camping party. No thanks.

In the end, Saya went full Bear Grylls and poured her pasta water into an empty plastic bottle.

Next up, coffee time, an essential part of any camping trip, followed by a spot of gaming…

… catching up with Carrie and the girls on Hulu…

…pretending to do work…

…eating snacks…

…in fact, pretty much exactly what Saya would do if she were in her house. Huh. But even so, just doing these every day things outside made them feel special and more fun. This was certainly not Saya’s first time drinking coffee outside, or playing video games outside, but there was just something exciting and fresh about it this time.

Soon it was time to sleep. Saya pulled down the tarp and got ready for bed. She was acutely aware that her actual bed was mere inches from where she had set up her makeshift camping area, and she couldn’t help thinking “what on earth am I doing?” But being outside like this made Saya much more aware of her surroundings. Even though this was a place she thought she knew pretty well, it felt like she was in an entirely unknown area. She noticed things she’d never thought about before, like “How long is that car going to be idling for?” or “Huh, someone in the neighbourhood has a dog”.

Morning came and Saya was woken up by the refreshing sound of birds singing. Of course, Saya lives in Tokyo so this was soon replaced by the sound of people, but it was the first time in a long time that she’d heard birds in the morning. The tarp held up well as there was barely any wind during the night. A successful end to the camping experiment, for sure.

The best part about camping on your balcony is that cleaning up is a piece of cake. You don’t have to clean off any mud or dirt on your camping equipment, so you can pack it up quickly! Nice!

While Saya’s camping experiment was pretty successful, there are a couple of points to watch out for if you want to try balcony camping yourself. In such a small, covered area, you need to be extra careful when using fire, and be aware of the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning. Avoid cooking or using any heating equipment in a covered area. If the wind is particularly strong, don’t use any tarp covering. Similarly, you should be aware of your neighbours. If you talk in a loud voice, play music loudly or watch TV without using headphones, your neighbours might not appreciate it.

All in all, Saya’s balcony camping experience was a good one. She felt totally refreshed after her night outdoors, and now she has a new appreciation for how special doing mundane things on her balcony can feel, like drinking coffee or pretending to work. Of course, Saya is looking forward to properly camping outside when the coronavirus has settled. And if reading this has made you want to go balcony camping yourself, this outdoor kimono will keep you warm and toasty in your tent. Or if you’re looking for the perfect tent to pitch on your balcony for an even more authentic balcony camping experience, this tiny tent might be the very thing you need.

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]